Introduction and Course Description

Introduction and Course Description

In 1969, students at San Francisco State University and University of California, Berkeley launched massive protests at their respective campuses in demand for Ethnic Studies, an increased number of students of color, and a more diverse/representative faculty body.  Challenging the Eurocentric nature of the academy (America) and the systematic exclusion of faculty/students of color, the field of Ethnic Studies emerged through struggle, political organizing and resistance.  More than forty years later, this course challenges our assumptions of race, privilege and racism as well as the connected social constructs of gender, sexuality and class.  It pushes the conversation beyond the United States, looking at how race and racism exists in other parts of globe, emphasizing how globalization connect us in a myriad of ways.  Exploring a number of different sites in which racial meaning is created, articulated and challenged, we will come to see how central race (racism) is to the structural organization and lived experiences of our society.

In 2011, Washington State University instituted a series of changes to its general education requirements. Included within these changes was an alteration of its diversity requirement.  The new requirement reads as such:


The diversity requirement challenges students to critically analyze cultural differences and systems of inequality by learning about the diversity of human values and experiences.  This form of analysis assists cross-cultural (both within the United States and trans-national), communication and understanding, as well as personal development, by helping students to identify, analyze and propose alternatives to current systems of inequality and adapt empathically and flexibly to unfamiliar ways of being.

Specifically, Diversity courses should: (a) promote cultural self-awareness; (b) inform how culture is influenced by history, politics, power and privilege, communication styles, economics, institutionalized discrimination and inequality, and cultural values, beliefs and practices; (c) develop empathy skills that enable students to interpret intercultural experiences; (d) promote curiosity on the part of students to ask complex questions about other cultures and classes, and to seek out answers that reflect multiple cultural perspectives; or (e) encourage students to initiate and develop interactions with culturally different others

Broken into three distinct, but connected sections, this class examines diversity, through an examination and discussion of identity differences, inequality in privilege and opportunity, and other experiences that illustrate the range of human experience within our contemporary world. The initial portion of the class provides a foundational understanding of a number of different key themes and concepts. It will allow us to gain an understanding of the ideas of race, privilege, racism, and institutional racism all concepts mentioned and discussed at great lengths in both public and private discourses, but rarely understood with the necessary critical depth. For example, while the idea of “race” is used on a daily occurrence, more often than not people embrace a biological or a cultural approach (race as ethnicity). We will also reflect on racialization, privilege, and inequality both in the United States and elsewhere. The second section of the course will provide an opportunity to think about the impact of stereotypes, focusing on the ways that difference, inequality, and racialization operates within the criminal justice system. And finally, we will look at restaurant industry and food inequality. Emphasizing how it not only impacts others but how we collectively connect to these larger social processes, this section will focus on how cultural, economic, racial, and other divisions impact us all, especially in patterns of consumption. This is a class on race, racism, inequality, and the ways that race operates within everyday life.



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